“A Shopping Cart Full of Joy,” column for Feb. 9, 2016

What’s your favorite expression _ an epitaph, maybe, to chisel on your tombstone?

Growing up in the South, I was steeped in “Southernisms.” I can hardly talk without them:
“I’m grinnin’ like a mule eatin’ briars”; “She’s busy as a cow’s tail in a fly swarm”; “He’s dumb as a fist fight in an outhouse”; “I’m so blue I want to crawl up under the porch with the dogs”; and a personal favorite, “I wish you could’ve seen it.”

Recently I heard a phrase I’d never heard before. It’s perfect for summing up some of the finest women I’ve ever known, including many in my family _ my grandmothers, my mother, my daughter and daughters-in-law. I’d be proud to have it said of me, as well, but I’ll leave that to you to be the judge.

The expression was _ wait _ first, I want to tell you about my youngest grandchild. We have a lot in common, Eleanor and I. She’s not aware of it yet, but I will tell her as we grow older.

I’ve got a head start on growing older. Eleanor just turned 1. And I am, well, old enough to be her nana. Here are some ways we’re alike:

She has soft, dark curls with auburn highlights; bright, clear eyes that never miss a thing; and a perfect bow-shaped mouth meant to be kissed.

How does that make us alike? I, too, had auburn hair once.

Also, we both like to eat. (She’s big on bananas; I’m big on anything I don’t have to cook.) We are quick to smile, to laugh at ourselves and say things that aren’t always understood.

We each have two brothers. She’ll learn as much from hers, no doubt, as I have from mine.

We’re curious about the world and all it holds, but we like best being with people we like best.

We’re both a bit unsteady on our feet. She has just started walking. I’ve got no excuse.

We want to be taken seriously and are learning to stand up for ourselves, to make our thoughts and wishes crystal clear. But we have different ways to convey displeasure. I raise an eyebrow or give a stern look. She shrieks like a car alarm. Her way is more effective than mine.

Sometimes we like to hide. (She climbs in a cupboard and shuts the door. I pretend to be working.) But sooner or later, we always want to be found.

We both get discouraged now and then. Yet somehow we know we have to keep trying. How else will we find our way in this tangled, sweet old world?

Eleanor’s mama, bless her, sent me a video: Elle is barefoot in a diaper and T-shirt pushing a mini-shopping cart in a lazy circle around the room. Occasionally, she hits a bump. The cart bangs into the sofa. She stops to study the problem. Then she backs up on her chubby legs like a seriously cute Sumo wrestler, until the cart is freed, problem solved.

Then she beams with pride and moves on. Until the next bump. And the next. And next. Each time, she figures it out. She is little in body, but large in spirit.

I wish you could see her.

And I wish I could be more like her. That video arrived with perfect timing just after I’d lost the syndication for my column, a job I’d loved for 25 years. Talk about a bump. There’ve been lots of bumps since then on the road to self-syndicating and reinventing myself.

Life is all about reinvention, isn’t it? If we aren’t changing, we aren’t truly alive. It’s a lesson I learned after my children grew up and their father died and I had to figure who I was now that I was no longer who I’d been.

There’ll be more bumps ahead. There always are. I’ll try to take them, like Eleanor, one by one, as they come, then smile and move on.

We want to be teachers for our children and their children. But I’ve learned far more from mine than they’ll ever learn from me.

The expression I heard recently? It fits Eleanor down to her fat little toes.

Maybe, if I’m lucky, it will fit her nana, too:

“She’s a hard dog to keep under the porch.”


  1. I have been missing your articles in the Naples Florida paper. Just happened to look you up on line, and so happy to find your stories. We have similar lives in that we grandparent from afar. Always enjoy reading about your family. Please continue writing.

  2. Weldon Walker says

    So glad you’re writing again. I missed you. Keep it up!

  3. I hope Eleanor decides to write. She has some pretty good genes.

  4. I missed your writings during the holidays and it is always a pleasure to see your words of wisdom, grace and humor forwarded to me by a dear colleague.

  5. Sheila Torres says

    Beautifully written column as always. Miss you terribly each Sunday but so glad to be fortunate enough to have you on Facebook! It feels like old home week ❤️❤️

  6. Pat Burneson says

    You haven’t returned to my Naples (Florida) Daily News yet, but keep the email columns coming. I’ll enjoy you anyway I can get you!

  7. Sharing your column has always meant so much to me… I was heartbroken and confused when you said it would be your last column!! But low and behold, you’ve gone and reinvented yourself,
    and I couldn’t be more happy go have you back! I have had some serious bumps in my life the past year and a half, and I so needed to hear the message “keep fighting”. Thank thank for pursuing your column :)))!!!

    • Phyllis Zachow says

      Hi Sharon: So very happy to have you back in our paper. We have been enjoying your column for about 12 years, so we were very sad when your column was dropped. Even my husband reads it! I so enjoy your stories, so filled with faith, & happiness with family. Those are the two most important things in life, right? Keep it up, I look forward to every Sunday & your column.

  8. I may have to try climbing into the cabinet and closing the door! Pretty sure shrieking like a car alarm would not be productive though. So pleased you’ve been able to reinvent again. May your next bumps be as sweet as your Eleanor’s chubby little toes!

  9. Joanna from SC says

    So so happy to see you are still writing! I love your column, much like my grandmama. I suppose you and I also have THAT in common. I can’t tell you his many times I heard from my daddy growing up, “You are so much like Barbara Jeanne!” Then I would grin ear to ear. I’m sure one day Eleanor will do the same. Once again, Happy to be reading your stuff again. Happy writing!

  10. Sharon Mangas says

    So glad to see your writing again! Sadly, our local newspaper is not one that picked your column back up, so I’m very glad you are posting your writings on Facebook for your readers. Change is the essence of life, isn’t it? Every day is a gift. Your humor, your sensitivity, love for family and your faith shine through your writing. Thanks for brightening my world with your gift of words.

    • Sharon Mangas I like reading your articles, too! Do you know how to get Sharon Randall’s column back in The Republic?

  11. Susan McDermott says

    Sharon, I’m so glad to have found you again!! Everytime I’d read my Sunday paper, I’d get to your column, read it, take out the coupons & store flyers and say the same thing to myself each time. “Well, I read the entire Sunday paper and didn’t read anything uplifting or positive except Sharon Randall.” Now, once again I can check in with you, your family & sweet grandchildren. Thanks for all you’ve given your readers!

  12. Serena Garner says

    Gramps’s favorite expression during difficult times was, “This ain’t no hill for a climber,” and I’ve adopted it as my favorite!!

  13. “I had to figure out who I was now that I was no longer who I’d been.” Wow, do I understand that. My husband of almost 53 years of marriage is dying of pancreatic cancer, and I’m not sure if there will be anything left of me when he’s gone. Somehow you made it. I hope I will. God bless you – I love your columns! So glad you’re back!

  14. Such a good comparison of how to handle life and your granddaughter’s way of dealing with the ‘bumps’. I’m thankful you found out a way to get around yours too, so you could keep writing to all of us.

    I can relate to what you said about learning who you are again, after your first husband passed away. I’m in the process of learning that myself. Life goes on… and God is showing me that very well through three more grand-babies to be born in June!. This will make 10 now!! 🙂

    Blessings to you and your family~

    • Blessings to you from another “Jo” who also loves Sharon Randall’s writings. So, so glad she is “a hard dog to keep under the porch.” I do have an expression after having done something not real smart. It is, “All the dumb ones are not dead yet.” Always draws a laugh and lightens the situation. Laughter will get one through quite a bit in life.

  15. “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
    This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”
    — Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Why I like to read your mind. Keep on writing.

  16. I was so sad when it was announced in my paper, the Reading Eagle, that your column would no longer be printed. I looked forward to hearing from you every Monday! Our lives have much in common. So, JOY<JOY<JOY! You are back!!! Once again, my life is complete.
    Thanks for your words!

  17. Very nice comparison of Nana and little one .Do not know details but very sure she is proud of her Nana . thanks for sharing with us . lot of love to your beautiful grand kids .

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